Telecom gets serious about wireless

Hot-spot roll out proceeding apace

Telecom is undertaking one of the Asia–Pacific region’s biggest training exercises to teach its troops — and customers — all about wi-fi.

Paul Stoddart, Telecom’s head of wi-fi services, says the training is essential if Telecom is to make a success of its wi-fi play — something he’s determined to make sure happens.

“The plan is to have all of New Zealand covered so anyone will be within an hour’s drive of a wi-fi hotspot,” he says.

To that end, Telecom is rolling out more hotspots around the country, expanding from its base of hotel lobbies and cafes.

“We’re going to be in every airport, we’re looking at train stations, ferry terminals, things like that,” Stoddart says.

Telecom is also planning to roll out hotspots in retail outlets like Harvey Norman and Noel Leeming, so buyers can try wireless networking before they buy.

But, behind the scenes, Telecom’s staff need to learn more so they can handle questions from both novice and experienced users, says Stoddart.

“We’re training all our customer-facing staff. We’re training 62 service engineers, so they can install and maintain hotspots, and we’re sending 55 staff on five-day intensive training courses to become wi-fi experts.”

The training regime should result in Telecom having the largest number of certified wireless network professionals (CWNP) in the country, says Stoddart.

“Our training partner tells us this is the largest CWNP training initiative undertaken by a single company in the region.”

Stoddart hopes the training will help Telecom increase its ability to offer wi-fi related products and services.

“Once we’ve got people talking about wi-fi at barbecues and really wanting to know more — once we’ve reached that sort of level, then we can start to differentiate and, really, that’s what we hope to be, the market leader.”

Stoddart acknowledges the work being done by Wellington-based City Link’s wireless offering, CafeNet, in particular, but hopes Telecom will become the first telco to offer wi-fi nationwide.

“By March next year we plan to have 420 hotspots and we’ll be accelerating our roll-out by offering hotspots in a box, so companies can set up their own hotspot without needing to wait for us to do it for them.”

Telecom trialled a portable hot spot at this year’s Microsoft Tech∙Ed developer’s conference held in Auckland last month, and Stoddart hopes to see more of that kind of service in the future.

“We’ll use Telecom’s 3G network as backhaul and have a wi-fi hotspot set up just about anywhere,” he says.

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